By Mina Corpuz
TOWNSEND -- Six months after its last meeting, the Townsend Housing Authority is considering veterans housing for its next affordable housing project.
The election of a new member, Carol Tule, brings the authority to full membership and can helps it get back on track as an active board, said Chair Laurie Shifrin.
"We'll just get going on what we need to do," she said. "I think there's a big thing now to find out what our direction is."
The THA plans to have a feasibility study to determine if there is interest in Townsend for veterans housing.
Members are looking into funding from the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission for next year or from the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation.
The authority has also reached out to several groups in Massachusetts and New Hampshire that work with veterans and housing.
Not having a land use coordinator in Town Hall has impacted how much work the group has been able to do to advance veteran housing, which has been in the works for several years.
The land use coordinator is a liaison to the town's conservation, zoning, and planning departments, which are involved in development.
"Although we have been challenged, we feel some sense of accomplishment as volunteers and look forward to being progressive in the future," Shifrin said.
At the meeting, she took a moment to remember Kathy Araujo, Townsend's former land use coordinator and authority member, who died in April.
It was her idea for the authority to pursue veteran housing for its next project, Shifrin said.
Araujo worked with the THA on a number of projects, including the Townsend Woods senior housing.
After seven years and three rejections by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the project was approved. Townsend Woods was one of the last projects in the state built through HUD's Section 202 supportive elderly housing plan, Shifrin said.
She helped the town increase its affordable housing stock to about 5 percent. The state requires municipalities to have 10 percent of all housing dedicated to affordable housing.
One reason why the THA hasn't been able to meet until May was because Shifrin had surgery and needed to recover. She often gives rides to two members for meetings, and without her, the group wouldn't have a quorum.
Since meeting in 2017, the board has also addressed three Open Meeting Law violations filed by Selectman Cindy King.
The first complaint from September was about the creation of a subgroup. In response, Shifrin called a meeting to discuss the complaint and there was no discussion about it over email.
In October, a second complaint took issue with supporting documents posted for that meeting. The chair called another meeting to discuss the violation.
The last complaint, which came in November, that alleged a "deliberate attempt to cover up evidence of a previous OML complaint," according to a November letter Shifrin wrote to King.
Chaz Sexton-Diranian, the state representative on the board, wrote a report that was originally part of a meeting agenda. He removed it thinking that would help comply with the first violation.
He has taken responsibility for the error and has fixed the paperwork.
Shifrin completed an open meeting law webinar training in December and encouraged other authority members to complete it too.
Follow Mina on Twitter @mlcorpuz.